British & Irish Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree says the Schalk Burger incident has upset the side but there won’t be any directive to exact revenge.
Burger received an eight-week ban for eye gouging Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald, yet the Lions’ have been incensed by the Springboks’ refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
Their main point of criticism is Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’s remark that ‘it’s part of the game’, which SA Rugby has since sought to clarify.
The controversy this week is sure to add an edge to Saturday’s third and final Test at Ellis Park, but Rowntree maintains that while it will be intensely physical, they would in no way transgress the laws.
‘We’re upset by his [De Villiers’s] comments, they were crass and there’s absolutely no place in the game for eye-gouging,’ Rowntree told keo.co.za.
‘How a player can think he could get away with that is beyond me. I don’t know what would make a guy want to do that.
‘That said, we have a highly professional squad. As far as we are concerned the issue is done and dusted, and our frustration won’t spill over into the match.’
Rowntree added that the Lions had lost some respect for Burger, and added that no official or unofficial apology was forthcoming from the Springbok flanker.
Referring to De Villiers’s persistent defence of Burger, he said there were times when coaches had to support players who were under fire, but stressed that this certainly wasn’t one of them. ‘Eye gouging is indefensible,’ he said.
Turning his attention to Saturday’s Test, Rowntree said there was no question that they would be able to summon the motivation to compete strongly in a dead rubber.
‘We’re battered and bruised physically and emotionally but we must go on,’ he said.
‘We probably don’t deserve to be 2-0 down. We were gutted that the scrums went to uncontested in the second test, we stopped their driving mauls well and we were good at the breakdown. So there were lots of positives for us.
‘They’ll try and go for the whitewash because they’ll think we’re on the ropes. It’s true that our squad is being held together by Elastoplast, but believe me, we have plenty in the tank.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Johannesburg